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**DOI 10.1007/s00419-006-0018-8
**

ORIGINAL

K. Liu · W. Liu

Application of discrete element method for continuum

dynamic problems

Received: 13 May 2005 / Accepted: 9 March 2006 / Published online: 25 April 2006

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Abstract Anewmethod based on the principle of minimumpotential energy is presented, aiming to overcome

some weakness of the present discrete element method (DEM). Our primary research is to put forward the

DEM with a tight theory base and a ﬁt technique for treating continuum dynamic problems. By using this

method, we can not only extend the existing seven-disc model, but also establish a new nine-disc model in a

general way. Moreover, the equivalences of two kinds of models have been veriﬁed. In addition, three numer-

ical examples of stress wave propagation problems are given in order to validate accuracy and efﬁciency of

the present DEM models and their algorithms. Finally, the dynamic stress concentration problem of a square

plate with a circular hole is analyzed.

Keywords Computation mechanics · Continuum dynamics · Discrete element Method · Numerical model ·

Stress wave Propagation

1 Introduction

Various mechanical phenomena can be observed in materials and structures under impact loading, such as stress

wave propagation, large deformation, damage and failure [1]. Numerical simulation is an effective measure

for studying those problems. Among the numerical algorithms, ﬁnite difference method (FDM), ﬁnite volume

element method (FVM) [11–13], ﬁnite element method (FEM), boundary element method (BEM) and the

method of characteristics are suitable for analyzing the dynamic behaviors of continuum, and for forecasting

the failure region of materials accurately. However, it is difﬁcult for the above methods to simulate the entire

failure process. Additional special treatments (such as remeshing and contact judgment) have to be considered

in the procedure of calculation, where damage or fracture appears. The problems demand further research.

The discrete element method (DEM), which was ﬁrst proposed by Cundall [2] in early 1970’s, is proved

to be a successful tool for modeling non-continuum, such as rocks or granular materials. It has been widely

used in geotechnical engineering and powder technology [3–5]. However, accuracy of the traditional DEM

is not so good as FEM for continuum, thus the DEM–FEM combination algorithms have been introduced

[6, 7]. FEMis adopted in the continuumpart, while DEM is used where damage appears. Since two procedures

of DEM and FEM are involved in the algorithms, the programs and the logical relation may be too complex.

Furthermore, artiﬁcial judgements are often needed in the fractured area, which are unfavorable to practical

application. Therefore, a special DEM model for both continuum and non-continuum could be set up naturally

This work was supported by Nation Natural Science Foundation of China (nos. 10232040 and 10572002).

K. Liu (B) · W. Liu

LTCS and Department of Mechanics and Engineering Science,

Peking University, Beijing 100871, People’s Republic of China

E-mail: kliu@pku.edu.cn

Tel.: +86-10-62765844

Fax: +86-10-62751812

230 K. Liu, W. Liu

whose accuracy matches that of FEM for continuum. In our model, the connective links between destroyed

elements simply change to contact links of the traditional DEM and the element arrangement patterns keeps

unchangable. In this research ﬁeld, some successful simulations on the transmforming process from contimu-

um to non-continuum is reported in Ref. [1, 8, 9], such as the transient responses of a steel warhead penetrating

a concrete disc harrow and the damage process of concrete block under impact loading. However, all those

DEM models are developed for speciﬁc problems. Lack of rigorous theoretical foundation and ﬂexibility of

arrangement patterns in modeling seriously limits the wide use of DEM, especially for continuum dynamic

problems.

In this paper, a new method to establish the DEM model for continuum dynamic problems is presented

based on the principle of minimum potential energy. The present method not only extends the exsiting seven-

disc model [1, 8], but also puts forward a new nine-disc model in a general way. Moreover, the equivalences

of these two kinds of models have been veriﬁed. By mean of the models and the corresponding numerical

scheme, stress wave propagations due to a longitudinal pulse are calculated in an isotropic, an anisotropic and

a layered plate. And the dynamic stress concentration problem on a square plate with a hole is investigated.

Comparing the numerical results with the corresponding results obtained by FEM, FVM, and the method of

characteristics, accuracy and efﬁciency of the models and their algorithms are examined.

2 Discrete model for continuum

2.1 Basic formulation

The plane stress problem is considered here. A elastic plate is subdivided into many rigid disc elements, which

are linked by two kinds of springs (a normal spring and a tangential spring) as shown in Fig. 1. There are

two possible kinds of compact arrangement patterns of discs, type A and type B. Type A is called seven-disc

model, and type B is called nine-disc model. For type A, semi-disc elements are needed on the neat boundary.

Type C in Fig. 1, an arbitrary arrangement disc model, is not considered, because the model is not suitable for

treating continuum problems.

Assuming the elastic plate is subdivided into N disc elements, the total potential energy of the disc-spring

system is given as follows:

=

N

¸

i

(U

i

V

i

) +

N

¸

i

(u

xi

ρ ¨ u

xi

V

i

+u

yi

ρ ¨ u

yi

V

i

) −

N

¸

i

(u

xi

f

xi

V

i

+u

yi

f

yi

V

i

) −

N

¸

i

(u

xi

¯

T

xi

S

i

+u

yi

¯

T

yi

S

i

),

(1)

A

i

j

C

i

j

B

n

k

s

k

j

i

nj

u

ni

u

yi

u

sj

u

xi

u

yj

u

xj

u

i

O

si

u

i

O

j

O

j

O n

s

x

y

o

o

′

a

. . . . .

. .

. . .

. .

.

. . . .

. .

. . .

. . . . .

. .

. .

.

. . . . .

.

.

.

.

. .

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

. . . . . . .

. . . . . . .

. . .

. .

. . .

. .

. .

. . . .

. .

. .

. . .

.

.

Fig. 1 Discrete element method models based on rigid disc elements

Application of discrete element method for continuum dynamic problems 231

where U

i

is the average strain energy around disc i , V

i

the volume of disc i , ρ the mass density, S

i

the boundary

area of external force on disc i . u

xi

, u

yi

and ¨ u

xi

, ¨ u

yi

are the displacements and the accelerations of disc i in

the horizontal and the vertical directions, respectively. f

xi

, f

yi

and

¯

T

xi

,

¯

T

yi

are the components of body force

and surface force on disc i in the horizontal and the vertical directions, respectively.

The deformation effect of a elastic body is performed through the deformation of springs in the DEM

models. Supposing that disc i connects with p discs (see Fig. 1), the average strain energy around disc i is

written as follows:

U

i

=

1

V

i

p

¸

j

1

2

¸

1

2

k

ni j

(u

nj

−u

ni

)

2

+

1

2

k

si j

(u

s j

−u

si

)

2

¸

(2)

where k

ni j

and k

si j

are the spring constants between discs i and j along the normal and the tangential direc-

tions, respectively. u

ni

and u

si

are the normal and the tangential displacements of disc i . u

nj

and u

s j

are the

normal and the tangential displacements of disc j .

As shown in Fig. 1, assuming the rotation angle between x-axes and the normal direction of the spring as

α, l = cos(α), and m = sin(α), we obtain that

u

n

= u

x

l +u

y

m, u

s

= u

y

l −u

x

m. (3)

Substituting Eq. (3) into Eq. (2), the following result can be yielded

U

i

=

1

4V

i

p

¸

j

k

ni j

[l

i j

(u

x j

−u

xi

) +m

i j

(u

yj

−u

yi

)]

2

+

1

4V

i

p

¸

j

k

si j

[−m

i j

(u

x j

−u

xi

) +l

i j

(u

yj

−u

yi

)]

2

.

(4)

Substituting Eq. (4) into Eq. (1) and according to variational calculus ∂/∂u

xi

= 0, ∂/∂u

yi

= 0, ¨ u

xi

and ¨ u

yi

are given by

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¨ u

xi

=

1

ρV

i

¸

f

xi

V

i

+

¯

T

xi

S

i

+

p

¸

j

k

ni j

[l

2

i j

(u

x j

−u

xi

) +l

i j

m

i j

(u

yj

−u

yi

)]

+

p

¸

j

k

si j

[m

2

i j

(u

x j

−u

xi

) −l

i j

m

i j

(u

yj

−u

yi

)]

¸

,

¨ u

yi

=

1

ρV

i

¸

f

yi

V

i

+

¯

T

yi

S

i

+

p

¸

j

k

ni j

[l

i j

m

i j

(u

x j

−u

xi

) +m

2

i j

(u

yj

−u

yi

)]

+

p

¸

j

k

si j

[−l

i j

m

i j

(u

x j

−u

xi

) +l

2

i j

(u

yj

−u

yi

)]

¸

.

(5)

Therefore, [ ¨ u

xi

]

t

and

¸

¨ u

yi

¸

t

at moment t are obtained by Eq. (5), where [ ]

t

denotes the physical quantity

at moment t . At moment t +t , [ ˙ u

xi

]

t +t

,

¸

˙ u

yi

¸

t +t

, [u

xi

]

t +t

and

¸

u

yi

¸

t +t

can be obtaind according to

Euler formula

¸

[ ˙ u

xi

]

t +t

= [ ˙ u

xi

]

t

+[ ¨ u

xi

]

t

t

[ ˙ u

yi

]

t +t

= [ ˙ u

yi

]

t

+[ ¨ u

yi

]

t

t

¸

[u

xi

]

t +t

= [u

xi

]

t

+[ ˙ u

xi

]

t

t,

[u

yi

]

t +t

= [u

yi

]

t

+[ ˙ u

yi

]

t

t,

(6)

where t is a time increment.

2.2 The relation between relative displacement and strain

The relative displacement between two points (i and j ) can be expressed as du

i

= (ε

i j

+ω

i j

)dx

j

. Considering

a small-rotation problem (rotation tensor ω

i j

are ignored), the following equations are obtained.

¸

u

x j

−u

xi

= (x

j

− x

i

)ε

x

+

y

j

−y

i

2

γ

xy

= (r

i

+r

j

)lε

x

+

r

i

+r

j

2

mγ

xy

,

u

yj

−u

yi

= (y

j

− y

i

)ε

y

+

x

j

−x

i

2

γ

xy

= (r

i

+r

j

)mε

x

+

r

i

+r

j

2

lγ

xy

,

(7)

232 K. Liu, W. Liu

where r

i

and r

j

are the radius of disc i and disc j , respectively. ε

x

, ε

y

and γ

xy

are the engineering strain

components.

Substituting Eq. (7) into Eq. (3), the relations between the relative displacement and strain at two points

are given by

¸

u

nj

−u

ni

= (r

i

+r

j

)(l

2

ε

x

+m

2

ε

y

+lmγ

xy

),

u

s j

−u

si

=

r

i

+r

j

2

[2lm(ε

y

−ε

x

) +(l

2

−m

2

)γ

xy

].

(8)

3 The relation between spring constants and elastic constants

Considering two disc elements that are linked by the normal spring and the tangential spring, the relation

between spring constants and elastic constants can be certainly established if plastic deformation and fracture

do not take place. As shown in Fig. 1, taking disc i into consideration, the average strain energy is expressed

with the elastic potential energy of all normal and all tangential springs. Substituting Eq. (8) into Eq. (2), the

average strain energy over disc i is obtain by

U

i

=

1

V

i

p

¸

j

¸

k

ni j

r

2

i

l

2

i j

ε

xi

+m

2

i j

ε

yi

+l

i j

m

i j

γ

xyi

2

+

1

4

k

si j

r

2

i

(2l

i j

m

i j

(ε

yi

−ε

xi

) +(l

2

i j

−m

2

i j

)γ

xyi

)

2

¸

(9)

The subscript i of U

i

is omitted, as disc i is an arbitrary disc. Making

A =

¸

j

k

ni j

r

2

i

l

4

i j

, B =

¸

j

k

ni j

r

2

i

m

4

i j

, C = C

1

=

¸

j

k

ni j

r

2

i

l

2

i j

m

2

i j

, C

2

=

¸

j

k

si j

r

2

i

l

2

i j

m

2

i j

,

D =

¸

j

k

si j

r

2

i

(l

2

i j

−m

2

i j

)

2

, E =

¸

j

k

ni j

r

2

i

l

3

i j

m

i j

, F =

¸

j

k

ni j

r

2

i

l

i j

m

3

i j

,

G =

¸

j

k

si j

r

2

i

l

i j

m

i j

(l

2

i j

−m

2

i j

). (10)

Equation (9) can be written as

U =

1

V

¸

(A +C

2

)ε

2

x

+(B +C

2

)ε

2

y

+(2C

1

−2C

2

)ε

x

ε

y

+

C

1

+

D

4

¸

γ

2

xy

+(2E − G)ε

x

γ

xy

+(2F + G)ε

y

γ

xy

¸

. (11)

The average strain energy formula in anisotropic materials for the plane stress problem is written as

U =

1

2

(c

11

ε

2

x

+c

22

ε

2

y

+c

66

γ

2

xy

+2c

12

ε

x

ε

y

+2c

16

ε

x

γ

xy

+2c

26

ε

y

, γ

xy

), (12)

where c

i j

are the elastic coefﬁcients.

The average strain energy in Eq. (11) and Eq. (12) are equivalent. So, the conditions of the DEM model

are given by

Vc

11

= 2A +2C

2

, Vc

22

= 2B +2C

2

, Vc

66

= 2C

1

+ D/2,

Vc

12

= 2C

1

−2C

2

, Vc

16

= 2E − G, Vc

26

= 2F + G. (13)

The relation between spring constants and elastic constants are obtained, if the arrangement patterns of discs

satisfy Eq. (13).

Application of discrete element method for continuum dynamic problems 233

3.1 Seven-disc model and its spring constant determination

For type A shown in Fig. 1, each disc is surrounded by other six discs, which forms regular hexagon lattices.

As shown in Fig. 2, the seven discs are numbered and all disc radius are r. Suppose k

n1

and k

s1

are the normal

and the tangential spring constants between disc 0 and disc 1, and between disc 0 and disc 4, respectively; k

n2

and k

s2

are the normal and the tangential spring constants between disc 0 and disc 2, and between disc 0 and

disc 5, respectively; k

n3

and k

s3

are the normal and the tangential spring constants between disc 0 and disc 3,

and between disc 0 and disc 6, respectively. Finally, Eq. (10) is changed to

A = r

2

2k

n1

+

1

8

k

n2

+

1

8

k

n3

, B = r

2

9

8

k

n2

+

9

8

k

n3

, C

1

= r

2

3

8

k

n2

+

3

8

k

n3

,

C

2

= r

2

3

8

k

s2

+

3

8

k

s3

, D = r

2

2k

s1

+

1

2

k

s2

+

1

2

k

s3

, E = r

2

√

3

8

k

n2

−

√

3

8

k

n3

,

F = r

2

3

√

3

8

k

n2

−

3

√

3

8

k

n3

, G = r

2

−

√

3

4

k

s2

+

√

3

4

k

s3

. (14)

Then substituting Eq. (14) into Eq. (13), the normal and the tangential spring constants for anisotropic materials

are obtained by

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

k

n1

=

√

3

6

(3c

11

+2c

12

−c

22

)δ,

k

n2

= k

n3

=

√

3

3

(c

12

+c

22

±

√

3c

16

±

√

3c

26

)δ,

k

s1

=

2

√

3

3

(3c

66

−c

22

)δ,

k

s2

= k

s3

=

√

3

3

(c

22

−3c

12

±3

√

3c

16

∓

√

3c

26

)δ,

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

k

n1

=

√

3

6

(3c

11

+2c

12

−c

22

)δ,

k

n2

=

√

3

3

(c

12

+c

22

+

√

3c

16

+

√

3c

26

)δ,

k

n3

=

√

3

3

(c

12

+c

22

−

√

3c

16

−

√

3c

26

)δ,

k

s1

=

2

√

3

3

(3c

66

−c

22

)δ,

k

s2

=

√

3

3

(c

22

−3c

12

+3

√

3c

16

−

√

3c

26

)δ,

k

s3

=

√

3

3

(c

22

−3c

12

−3

√

3c

16

+

√

3c

26

)δ,

(15)

where δ = V/(2

√

3r

2

) is the thickness of the disc.

For orthotropic materials, c

16

= 0 and c

26

= 0, Eq. (15) is changed to

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

k

n1

=

√

3

6

(3c

11

+2c

12

−c

22

)δ,

k

n2

= k

n3

=

√

3

3

(c

12

+c

22

)δ,

k

s1

=

2

√

3

3

(3c

66

−c

22

)δ,

k

s2

= k

s3

=

√

3

3

(c

22

−3c

12

)δ.

(16)

0 1

2 3

4

5 6

Fig. 2 Seven-disc model

234 K. Liu, W. Liu

For isotropic materials, c

11

= c

22

= (E/1 −ν

2

), c

12

= (νE/1 −ν

2

), and c

66

= G = (E/2(1 +ν)), Eq. (16)

is changed to

¸

k

n

= k

n1

= k

n2

= k

n3

=

Eδ

√

3(1−ν)

,

k

s

= k

s1

= k

s2

= k

s3

=

Eδ(1−3ν)

√

3(1−ν

2

)

,

(17)

where E is elastic modulus, v is Poisson’s ratio. For the cases of orthotropic materials and isotropic materials,

the results about the normal and the tangential spring constants are the same as the research results based on

Green’s formula [1].

3.2 Nine-disc model and its spring constant determination

For type B shown in Fig. 1, each disc is surrounded by other eight discs, which forms regular square lattices.

As shown in Fig. 3, the nine discs are numbered and all disc radius are r. Suppose k

n1

and k

s1

are the normal

and the tangential spring constants between disc 0 and disc 1, and between disc 0 and disc 5, respectively; k

n3

and k

s3

are the normal and the tangential spring constants between disc 0 and disc 3, and between disc 0 and

disc 7, respectively; k

n2

and k

s2

are the normal and the tangential spring constants between disc 0 and disc 2,

between disc 0 and disc 4, between disc 0 and disc 6, and between disc 0 and disc 8, respectively. Finally, Eq.

(10) is changed to

A = 2r

2

(k

n1

+k

n2

), B = 2r

2

(k

n3

+k

n2

), C

1

= 2r

2

k

n2

, C

2

= 2r

2

k

s2

,

D = 2r

2

(k

s1

+k

s3

), E = F = G = 0. (18)

This model is not suitable for general anisotropic materials since E = F = G = 0. However, it can solve the

problem of orthotropic materials for c

16

= 0 and c

26

= 0. When k

s

= k

s1

= k

s2

= k

s3

, substituting Eq. (18)

into Eq. (13), the normal and the tangential spring constants for orthotropic materials are obtained by

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

k

n1

=

1

3

(3c

11

+c

12

−4c

66

)δ,

k

n2

=

1

3

(c

12

+2c

66

)δ,

k

n3

=

1

3

(c

12

+3c

22

−4c

66

)δ,

k

s

=

2

3

(c

66

−c

12

)δ,

(19)

where δ = V/(4r

2

).

For isotropic materials, c

11

= c

22

= (E/1 −ν

2

), c

12

= (νE/1 −ν

2

), and c

66

= G = (E/2(1 +ν)),

Eq. (20) is changed to

¸

¸

¸

¸

¸

k

n1

= k

n3

=

1+3ν

3(1−ν

2

)

Eδ,

k

n2

=

1

3(1−ν

2

)

Eδ,

k

s

=

1−3ν

3(1−ν

2

)

Eδ,

(20)

0 1

3

5

7 8

2

4

6

Fig. 3 Nine-disc model

Application of discrete element method for continuum dynamic problems 235

4 Numerical results and discussion

4.1 Stress wave propagation in anisotropic half-space

For validating accuracy and efﬁciency of the DEMmodels and the numerical algorithm, an anisotropic dynamic

problemis calculatedbyour DEMalgorithmandANSYSLS-DYNA, respectively. As showninFig. 4, the stress

propagation process in an anisotropic half-space under a pressure pulse is simulated. The elastic coefﬁcients

are c

11

= 4.52385 GPa, c

12

= 0.88425 GPa, c

22

= 4.52385 GPa, c

66

= 1.61195 GPa, c

16

= 0.39005 GPa,

and c

26

= 0.39005 GPa. The mass density is ρ = 1, 244 kg/m

3

. The initial and the boundary conditions are

given by

¸

σ

x

= σ

y

= σ

xy

= 0, v

x

= v

y

= 0 for t = 0,

σ

y

= −p(x, t ) = −p

0

H(a −|x|) exp(−α t

2

) sin(β t ) for y = 0,

(21)

where H(x) denotes the Heaviside function, σ

x

, σ

y

and σ

xy

are the stress components, v

x

and v

y

are the

velocities in the horizontal and the vertical directions, α = 5.689 × 10

9

s

−2

, β = 2, 659 s

−1

, p

0

= 3.31 GPa,

and the loaded area is a = 20mm.

For DEM, the seven-disc model is used with the radius r = 1 mmand the time step t = 0.8 µs, where the

spring constants are given by Eq. (15). The dimension of the numerical model is 600 ×300 ×1 mm

3

(Length ×

Width × Thickness), where the number of discs is 51,814, and the total time is t = 200 µs. It takes about

210s to solve the problem with our PC (An Intel Pentium IV 1.6G CPU).

Using ANSYS LS-DYNA, the number of nodes is 45,451, and the time step is t ≈ 0.8 µs. The whole

computation consumes 310s (the computer is the same). Thus, the efﬁciency of our DEM algorithm is a little

higher than ANSYS LS-DYNA. Figs. 5 and 6 showthe contour lines of the horizontal and the vertical displace-

ments at time t = 104 µs calculated respectively by our DEM algorithm and ANSYS LS-DYNA. Comparing

Fig. 5 with Fig. 6, we can ﬁnd that distributions of the displacements are almost the same. From Figs. 5 and 6,

it is seen the typical characters that stress wave propagation in anisotropic media is not symmetrical, and the

speeds of stress waves are different along each direction. It testiﬁes accuracy and efﬁciency of the DEMmodels

and our program in calculating continuum dynamic problems.

4.2 Comparison of the numerical results by seven-disc model and nine-disc model

In this paper, two kinds of DEM models, seven-disc model and nine-disc model, are proposed for continuum

dynamic problems in order to enrich arrangement patterns of discs and enhance ﬂexibility in practical appli-

cation. Now we validate consistency of the two models through a numerical example. The geometric model

and the boundary conditions of the numerical example are the same as those in Sect. 4.1. But the material is

isotropic, and parameters are E = 4.6375 GPa, ν = 0.3, and ρ = 1, 244 kg/m

3

.

2a

( , ) p x t

y

o

x

Fig. 4 Semi-inﬁnite plate and coordinate system

236 K. Liu, W. Liu

Fig. 5 contour lines of the horizontal and the vertical displacements at t = 104 µs calculated by present method. (a) The contour

lines of the vertical displacement. (b) The contour lines of the horizontal displacement

Fig. 6 The contour lines of the horizontal and the vertical displacements at t = 104 µs calculated by ANSYS LS-DYNA. (a) The

contour lines of the vertical displacement. (b) The contour lines of the horizontal displacement

Application of discrete element method for continuum dynamic problems 237

The number of discs is 51,814 for the seven-disc model and 45,000 for the nine-disc model with the radius

r = 1mm. The time step is t = 0.2 µs, and the total time is t = 200 µs. Figure 7 shows the contour lines

of the vertical displacement at time t = 104 µs calculated by the seven-disc model and the nine-disc model,

respectively. Because the above problem is symmetrical about y-axis, only the part in the positive direction of

x-axis is presented. Comparing Fig. 7a with Fig. 7b, it can be seen that the numerical results are the same.

Figure 8 shows the distribution of the dimensionless maximum shear stress τ

max

/p

max

at t = 104 µs for

the two DEM models, respectively, where p

max

= max[ p(x, t )] is shown in Eq. (21), τ

max

is the maximum

shear stress. From the ﬁgure, we can clearly identify the quasi-longitudinal wave, the quasi-transverse wave,

the von Schmidt wave and the two peaks of Rayleigh wave. And the numerical results are the same by two

models. Comparing the results shown in Fig. 8 with the corresponding result for the same example obtained by

the method of characteristics [10] (the ﬁgure is omitted here), we can ﬁnd that the distributions of τ

max

/p

max

are almost the same, except that the two peak values of Rayleigh wave are slightly different.The reason is

because the boundary value is usually substituted by the value of the inner discs in DEM. It not only shows

that accuracy of two kinds of models is the same, but also veriﬁes accuracy of DEM in continuum again.

4.3 Elastic wave propagation in a layered medium

In order to estimate correctness and capability of the DEMmodels, stress wave propagation in a layered medium

should be simulated. Berezovski and Maugin has concerned the numerical example in a layered medium by

Fig. 7 The contour lines of the vertical displacement at t = 104 µs. (a) By the seven-disc model. (b) By the nine-disc model.

238 K. Liu, W. Liu

Fig. 8 Distribution of the dimensionless maximum shear stress τ

max

/p

max

at t = 104 µs. (a) By seven-disc model. (b) By

nine-disc model

using the FVM[11]. In this section, the same example in Ref. [11] is calculated by using our program. A

short-time excitation by sinusoidal normal stress at a part of the bottom boundary with linear retardation is

considered. All other boundaries are stress-free in a layered medium. Figure 9 describes the density distribu-

tion, where the gray and the black represent the copper and aluminum, respectively. The number of discs is

117,896 for the seven-disc model with the radius r = 0.5 mm. The time step is t = 0.08 µs, and the total

time is t = 80 µs. Figure 10 shows the contour plot of the total displacement at time t = 65 µs calculated by

the seven-disc model. The picture is asymmetric because of asymmetric loading at the boundary. Comparing

the result shown in Fig. 10 with the result by the FVM in Ref. [11] (the ﬁgure is omitted here), we can ﬁnd

that the snapshot of the elastic stress wave propagation is roughly same. Although the result by FVM is more

accuracy, the numerical result obtained by DEM is satisﬁed.

4.4 Stress wave propagation in a square plate with a hole

The accuracy of the present DEM models is ensured through the examples in Sects. 4.1 and 4.2. In this sec-

tion, the problem of dynamical stress concentration is calculated. As shown in Fig. 11, the stress propagation

process in an orthotropic square plate with a circular hole under a pressure pulse is simulated. The elastic

Application of discrete element method for continuum dynamic problems 239

Fig. 9 Density distribution in a layered medium

Fig. 10 Contour plot of elastic wave propagation in a layered medium

coefﬁcients are c

11

= 70.72 GPa, c

12

= 21.84 GPa, c

22

= 101.9 GPa, and c

66

= 24.40 GPa. The mass density

is ρ = 2, 488 kg/m

3

. The dimension of a square plate is 200 × 200 × 1 mm

3

(Length × width × thickness).

Ahole with a radius of 10mmlies in the center of the plate. The initial and the boundary conditions are given by

¸

σ

x

= σ

y

= σ

xy

= 0, v

x

= v

y

= 0 for t = 0,

σ

y

= −p(x, t ) = −p

0

H(a −|x|)(1 −0.5(αt −β)

2

)e

−(αt −β)

2

for y = 0,

(22)

where H(x) denotes the Heaviside function, α = 1 ×10

6

s

−1

, β = 2.5, p

0

= 500 MPa, and the loaded area

is a = 10mm.

240 K. Liu, W. Liu

2a

( , ) p x t

x

y

o

A(-0.001,0.115)

B(-0.001,0.085)

C D

Fig. 11 Sketch map of a square plate model with a hole at the center

Fig. 12 The stress wave ﬁeld of stress σ

y

at t = 20 µs

The problem is numerically calculated by the nine-disc model, where the spring constants are given by Eq.

(19). The disc radius is r = 0.25 mm, and the number of elements is 158376. The time step is t = 0.05 µs.

Figures 12 and 13 show the stress wave ﬁelds of stress σ

y

at time t = 20 and 28 µs, respectively. The lon-

gitudinal wave arrived the center of the square plate at time t = 20 µs. After t = 20 µs, the longitudinal

wave is disconnected in the hole, and the reﬂected wave has occurred on top of the hole. When t = 28 µs, the

longitudinal wave is rejoined again, that shows the phenomenon of diffraction. The shape of the stress wave

is close to a half ellipse, because the material is orthotropic and the vertical wave speed is fast. The reﬂected

wave produced at the boundary of the hole is interfered with the transverse wave. These interactivities between

stress waves result in the occurrence of stress concentrations.

The comparative curves at points A(−0.001, 0.115) and B(−0.001, 0.085) in Fig. 11 with the hole and

without hole are obtained for analyzing the phenomenon of dynamic stress concentration. Figures 14 and 15

show the time variation of σ

y

at points A and B, respectively. It can be seen from Fig. 14 that the maximum

tensile stress occurs at point A when t = 18 µs. Because of the reﬂection wave aroused at the hole, the peak

value of σ

y

with the hole is twice as the value without hole, which shows the phenomenon of dynamic stress

concentration clearly. When t = 20 µs, the longitudinal wave has arrived at the middle of the square plate.

The values of σ

y

at points A and B are small, and the maximum tensile stress occurs at points C(−0.015, 0.1)

Application of discrete element method for continuum dynamic problems 241

Fig. 13 The stress wave ﬁeld of stress σ

y

at t = 28 µs

Fig. 14 Time variation comparison of σ

y

at A

and D(0.015, 0.1) from Fig. 12. But the values of σ

y

with the hole and without hole are very close. When

t = 22 µs, the tensile stress does not occur at point B due to the existence of the hole, but have a smaller value

later on. After this, the stress values are smaller around the hole as the stress wave has passed by.

4.5 Stability of the numerical scheme

Because our DEM is a explicit method, the solution is only stable if the time step t is approximated as

t ≤ t

cr

=

2

ω

max

, (23)

where t

cr

is the critical value of the time step, ω

max

=

√

k

max

/m is the maximal circular frequency of a

mass-spring system, m is the mass of the smallest particle, k

max

is the maximumnormal contact spring stiffness.

As the effect of boundary condition and other factors have to be taken into account, t is always less than

t

cr

. In our numerical examples, the stability is evaluated by examining the relative energy error E

rr

in the

242 K. Liu, W. Liu

Fig. 15 Time variation comparison of σ

y

at B

Fig. 16 Time curves of the relative energy error

system, which is deﬁned as

E

rr

=

E

in

− E

t

E

in

(24)

where E

in

is the input energy and E

t

is the total energy.

For the example by seven-disc model in Sect 4.2, Fig. 16 shows time curves of the relative energy error

with different time steps t = 0.050, 0.822, 0.858, 1.000 µs. As can be seen, for t = 0.822 µs which is

obtained from Eq. (23), not only the relative energy error is steady, but also the curve is almost the same as the

curve calculated with the less time step t = 0.050 µs.

5 Conclusions

Based on the above results, we assert that the present DEM models is efﬁcient for the numerical analysis of

dynamic problems in continuum. It has extended the range of application of DEM to solving anisotropism

Application of discrete element method for continuum dynamic problems 243

problems. The usage of two kinds of models, seven-disc model and nine-disc model, has strengthened the

ﬂexibility of practical application. The same numerical results are obtained by seven-disc model and nine-disc

model for impact problems. Furthermore, comparing the numerical results obtained by DEM, FEM, FVM and

the method of characteristics, validity and accuracy of our DEM models are clearly demonstrated. Moreover,

the stress wave propagation on a square plate with a hole is simulated in order to analyze the phenomenon of

dynamical stress concentration and wave diffraction. Therefore, DEM not only is applied in non-continuum

(it widely used in geotechnical engineering and powder technology), but also is suitable for continuum (as

FEM and FVM). The research on DEM, however, has just started from the principle of continuum, and a lot

of work need be launched. The development of the DEM models for plastic materials and elastic-viscoplastic

materials will be our future work.

References

1. Liu, K., Gao, L., TANIMURA, S.: Application of discrete element method in impact problems. JSMEInt J Ser A47, 138–145

(2004)

2. Cundall, P.A.: A computer model for simulating progressive large scale movement in block rock system. Symp ISRM Proc

2, 129–136 (1971)

3. Herrmann, H.J., Luding, S., Modeling granular media on the computer. Continuum Mech Thermodyn 10, 189–231 (1998)

4. Tsuji, Y.: Activities in discrete particle simulation in Japan. Powder Technol 113, 278–286 (2000)

5. Liu, K., Gao, L.: A review on the discrete element method (in Chinese). Adv mech 33, 483–49 (2003)

6. Onate, E., Rojek, J.: Combination of discrete element and ﬁnite element methods for dynamic analysis of geomechanics

problems. Comput Methods Appl Mech Eng 193, 3087–3128 (2004)

7. Mohammadi, S., Owen, D.R.J., Peric, D.: A combined ﬁnite/discrete element algorithm for delamination analysis of com-

posites. Fin Elem Anal Des 28, 321–336 (1998)

8. Sawamoto, Y., Tsubota, H., Kasai, Y., Koshika, N., Morikawa, H.: Analytical studies on local damage to reinforced concrete

structures under impact loading by discrete element method. Nucl Eng Des 179, 157–177 (1998)

9. Liu, K., Gao, L.: The application of discrete element method in solving three dimensional impact dynamics problems. Acta

Mech Sol 16, 256–261 (2003)

10. Liu, K., Li, X.: Numerical simulation of stress wave propagation in an orthotropic plate. In: Proceedings of the 2nd interna-

tional symposium on impact engineering, pp. 19–24 (1996)

11. Berezovski, A., Maugin, G.A.: Simulation of thermoelastic wave propagation by means of a composite wave-propagation

algorithm. J Comput Phys 168, 249–264 (2001)

12. LeVeque, R.J.: Wave Propagation algorithms for multiple hyperbolic systems. J Comput Phys 131, 327–353 (1997)

13. Berezovski, A., Engelbrecht, J., Maugin, G.A.: Numerical simulation of two-dimensional wave propagation in functionally

graded materials. Eur J Mech A Solids 22, 257–265 (2003)

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